Microsoft’s xCloud cloud gaming service is expanding in 2021 and its Xbox Game Pass service is driving new engagement with the Xbox ecosystem. That’s the word from the company in a recent blog post, which highlighted recent developments for both platforms.
Xbox Game Pass is Microsoft’s monthly subscription service that grants players access to a wide range of titles, with some games rotating on and off the service over time. The service is generally regarded as a good deal if you’re interested in subscribing to a games-on-demand product in the first place — there’s a wide range of titles available and Microsoft has pledged to launch AAA games on the service as new titles arrive for Xbox Series X. With XGP, you still download games to your local system to play them.
Project xCloud is the company’s new stream-anywhere service that’s intended to allow you to game on anything from an iPhone or Android device to a lightweight PC, without needing to be tethered to a console.
According to Microsoft, over 40 percent of new Xbox gamers are using the Xbox Series S, which seems like a sly way of confirming that the sales split between the two consoles is somewhere between 41/59 and 49/51. Microsoft didn’t mention it here, but the company claimed 15 million subscribers earlier this fall when it bought Bethesda.
Microsoft is pushing Xbox Game Pass as a major component of its entire gaming strategy this generation. It recently partnered with EA to offer EA Play games on XGP, and Aaron Greenberg, marketing chief for Xbox, has confirmed that these games will be available for “quite a while.”
If you want to take advantage of the capability, you’ll need a subscription to Microsoft Game Pass Ultimate, which costs $15. Microsoft offers Xbox Game Pass in several flavors, shown below:
Bringing xCloud to PC isn’t surprising, but the fact that the service will be rolling out on iOS is a major change to previous Apple policies. Apple has previously argued that it would not allow such services at all because it couldn’t gate-keep the content they ran. After a back-and-forth in the media, Apple instead declared it would allow them — but only if every game listed in the service also passed App Store guidelines. This minor policy change is basically no policy change at all, given the practical impossibility of making that happen.
Instead, both Google and Microsoft will reportedly focus on delivering an experience entirely in-browser, bypassing the App Store lockout altogether. Amazon also plans to debut its streaming service on iOS similarly. It’s not clear what kind of impact this will have on gameplay, or how Microsoft might have to change its approach in order to effectively support the platform. If these companies are able to offer acceptable performance via Safari, it may send a signal to other firms that have chafed under Apple’s 30 percent fee — or its demand that companies include in-app purchases in their products solely to enrich Apple.
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